(something I’ve been wanting to write for a while, strap in, its weird and indulgent. And also written to try and loosen up for more important hullabaloo)
After the outbreak, I found myself hauled off to rehabilitation just like the rest. Only, I had spent the entirety of the outbreak locked in a supply closet, an extremely confusing experience for the newly created. My first experience with humanity was having a catch pole looped around my neck and being dragged away, so not off to a great start.
They named me Carpenter. The staff thought it was cute to name us after horror directors. It could be worse, at least I didn’t get named Boll. ‘Maskers’ was our given taxonomy, and apparently were were just another occurrence of monsters in a world that was already crowded with them.
The night guard for our ward was a vampire. I don’t know what my etiquette teacher was but it wasn’t human, with her nictitating membranes and gills. My social worker was a Cursed; I remember him vividly, folding his insectiod phalanges together and explaining through a proboscis that the world was going to be slow to accept us because Maskers were so new, so small in number, and our Feral counterparts had done little to endear the public to us. This is alright, I’m lucky.
I got fast tracked on my rehabilitation into Arts and Entertainment, I got a grant and was out in under two years. I took my money and ran as far as I could. I settled for a small town in the mountains, fifty or so miles from the state’s big summer tourist trap. I rent a cabin in the woods, surrounded by nothing but miles of forest. My nearest neighbor is at least a 30 minute drive away.
Chainsaw sculptures, wood burning, carvings – that’s how I’m able to make money. My kitsch ends up selling during the tourist season. I load up the wooden bears and eagles and souvenir bricabrac into my truck and hand it off to the summer shops. It sells very well. I have a client in The City who buys up my more refined work to sell at a stupid inflated price to people with too much money.
I don’t need to eat, so my cost of living is pretty low. The land owner here was so happy to finally be making a return on this little cabin in the middle of nowhere, he doesn’t charge me much. Staying warm in the winter is a problem, the cold can still freeze this body and leave me unable to move until spring. I keep the fire fed and limit my time outside. I’ve got a solar panel, but I mostly use it for powering my computer.
It’s been about a week since I turned it on, I can spare the energy. I boot up the cranky, decrepit thing. The internet out here is barely serviceable, and I only use it for checking emails from clients. And Wendi.
Of course I have an email from Wendi. Its brief, in bad choppy grammar, asking me when I’m coming down to the Big City to visit her again. Followed by hugs and kisses. Followed by an upwards facing selfie, the lenses of her Mask distorted, the latex yanked into a massive head splitting grin.
Wendi’s a Masker, we were in the same rehabilitation compound together. Wendi insisted on naming herself. She was found defending a tour group from Ferals during the outbreak. She latched onto me almost from day one. Wendi helped me through our training. She was the first person who made me laugh, and her energy was infectious. If she hadn’t shoved me out of my shell, I would probably still be there.
But she had zero respect for the program. She passed rehabilitation, but she was constantly pushing the boundaries of ‘acceptable’ behavior; talking with her Mask open, barely indulging in the monster-to-human etiquette we were being shoveled.
I’m not surprised she ended up in the big city. I don’t know how she’s making enough money to support herself there, but considering how I’ve seen her acting after getting out, I’d rather not know.
She’s more than comfortable with what she is; she delights in it. She makes no apologies for what she is, and she doesn’t try to disguise herself like other monsters do. Wearing sleeveless shirts to show off her exposed musculature. The way she’d stretch her arms over her head on the subway, putting her empty torso on display for everyone. Talking to norms with her fangs on display. I couldn’t do what she does, the stares, the people. She loves being object of horror and fascination.
My teeth form and grind together just at the thought of it. No, I’m going to pretend I didn’t see this email til the spring, and then I’ll have the excuse of my work.
I’m okay. I’m aright with the way things are. I can deal with this level of isolation, for however long this body lasts. I have the work, and I have myself. Soon it will be warm again, and I can work outside, unhindered. I just have to keep busy indoors, and I’ll be alright. I’ve got my books, and my paintings.
This will be okay. I almost believe it.